The Unglamorous Side of Homeownership

Personal finance is my forte and I have to remind you that it can pertain to the most sophisticated investments to the rather mundane. Part of family finance is to take care of the needs of one’s home and to allocate funds for repair and upkeep. I also counsel people not to procrastinate as it can result in a greater outlay of money when conditions deteriorate. Take my own problem: I had a dripping kitchen faucet and hesitated to hire an expensive plumber. I waited for a couple of weeks until the leak had grown to a virtual rush of unwanted water. I got on the phone in a jiffy. Of course, he fixed it in no time but he said the leak had caused the main pipe to corrode and now he had to replace it at considerable cost. I wish I had not waited. I hadn’t taken my own advice to handle broken household things promptly so they don’t cost more money in the long run. Homeownership is a big topic for my lecture series and it covers equity, mortgages, interest rates, and the like. But there is an unglamorous side of it to be sure. To mix things up a bit, I throw in a few stories like my kitchen faucet to make the point.

Any household budget can be taxed by home repairs and the older your home, the more likely you will encounter the need for on-going maintenance. Sure, we all wish we could buy new construction, but such is not the reality of real estate. There are holes in roofs, possible floods, and consequent mold. Your garage door stops working and the patio cover falls down. New carpet comes every five years as well as new kitchen appliances. Have you priced a good refrigerator or stove lately? You better set money aside. They say to replace your mattress every eight years, but it might be that long before the toilet conks out. It is fun to get upgraded things to make your home more attractive and comfortable, but don’t get blindsided. Start early to save for a rainy day as they say. Don’t ever wait for the last minute or you might have to come see me for a bank loan. I will be waiting to help.

Bank loans are not always easy to obtain but it is possible that they can be used for major home repairs. If you want to put an addition on to your home, replace the roof, or landscape the backyard, it runs into some significant money. But it adds value to the property when it comes time for resale, but it is also worth doing if a profit is your motive. Otherwise, a dilapidated fix-up home draws fewer buyers. Everything relates to everything else in the world of banking and personal finance. Get counseling if you feel at sea in this mysterious realm.

Not My Best Doctor’s Appointment

Sometimes you have a humiliating experience that you would like to forget. I don’t mean when your PowerPoint presentation conks out and you can’t seem to get it back on. I mean a trip to the doctor’s office for a checkup when the physician notes a gain in weight and makes a comment. You know why as you glance down at the body fat scale in the office. You jump off quickly and hope to wipe away the memory in time. But it is a sign that something must be done and that is going to be a new program of diet and exercise. The doctor sets a plan that you can easily follow. He counsels you to see a nutritionist if you have concerns. The point is to take action immediately to get back your health. Overweight causes many problems and potential diseases that can eventually tax your health budget. Most people haven’t saved for such an occurrence.

The nice thing about this situation is that you can remedy it in no time at all. If you are conscientious about your regime, you will get back to an optimum weight and that body fat ratio will change. Life goes on. People don’t often think about their health until they go to the doctor, and not even then. They write it off as normal or temporary, not something to worry about. Take my word for it and listen up. You can avoid the problems of old age if you start to take control now. But you also can’t discount the fact that people get heart disease and diabetes as a result of obesity in middle age. Obesity, of course, is the extreme, but I am trying to make a point. If you ignore your body fat, it may just keep growing. I know you are busy at work and with family obligations, but make time together to grab the reins of good health. There is nothing better than feeling in tip top shape. Your family needs you to be strong and reliable so don’t let them down.

If you don’t go to the doctor and haven’t a clue about your weight, buy a good bathroom scale and find out daily or weekly as you wish where you stand. Charts online will tell you what is normal for your age and height and where the danger zones lie. I love the scales that interface with your laptop.

There is a wealth of information that you can use to set personal goals. Get together with your family and discuss health. Take walks together, play games, go running in the park with the dog, or visit the gym. If you have a companion, you are more likely to stick with it. Keep notes and find out how long it takes to get back into shape. Spread the word. It can be encouraging for friends and colleagues and they may join you in the quest for good health.

Lovely Day with the Family

All of a sudden, you find that your kitchen appliances are out of date. It all seems to happen at once. It is just a matter of which one is on its last legs the first. This is any homeowner’s nightmare. Does it sound familiar? You have owned your home for a decade and everything goes to pot. What’s more, you haven’t saved enough for a kitchen remodel.

At best, you pick one appliance for replacement—and it is likely to be the least expensive. For me, right now, I want to get a new food vacuum sealer for my kitchen. Over several months, you find that they are all new and your bank account is sparse. So much for advance planning. I always counsel people to start day one when they buy a house and expect the worst. This way you will not be caught short. You are so taxed financially that you can barely afford a new electric knife. Speaking of this, I do have a good one and have allowed my son to learn to carve a ham. He loves the responsibility and is quite good at it. It makes me proud to see how grown up and mature he is now. The joy of a family is to watch it evolve and flourish.

Many of my clients have big families and while it is hard on the budget, it makes them supremely happy. The dinner table is full of conversation and the house is always laden with good cheer. Children bring such joy that it is immeasurable. The question is always to find the funds to give everyone what they want and need. What comes first? The kids or a new stove? It is a tough decision, but I often vote for family. Most times, new items are required and can’t be delayed. Use your common sense to help you master the maze of personal finance and learn how much to allocate to basic household categories. I know people who bought used appliances as a stop-gap measure until they could afford new ones. There is always a solution if you are creative.

A home is often the biggest burden on family finances. You must contemplate carefully when it is a good time to buy and if you need to spend a given amount to satisfy your long-term needs. If you stretch yourself to the limit, you will pay the price down the road. You can find a less expensive neighborhood even if it is not your first choice. Parents make decisions based primarily on neighboring schools and parks, but there are times when you want to give more direct attention to the actual house itself. More bedrooms means you can accommodate your family comfortably but it also adds to resale. If kids can walk to school, it is a big bonus. There are many considerations so don’t hesitate to consult a realtor or finance expert to learn all the ropes. No one has to go it alone these days with all the information available.

Finally Sleeping Better

I am a busy person, giving lectures and counseling people on banking and finance. I have to do a lot of research and keep up with a barrage of new information all the time. I must have my wits about me which means getting a good night’s sleep. When I get over tired, my brain simply doesn’t function. I blame my mattress, the night heat, street noise, and the like. Sometimes your mind simply goes over and over the events of the day in a monotonous sequence which prevents you from entering slumberland easily. I am not one to take potions and pills because I want a completely natural sleep. I listen to the experts and turn off the lights and the TV well before bedtime. I don’t read in bed anymore with my handy nightlight. I try to rid my mind of extraneous thoughts that intrude like poison arrows that pierce your body and keep you awake.

I had to have a better solution and so I asked around. People told me about melatonin, drinking warm milk, and eating turkey. Now that’s an odd idea but I will try anything. However, I don’t relish making a turkey sandwich late at night and going to sleep on a full stomach. I finally heard a better idea from a colleague at work. He bought a ceiling fan from this web site that wasn’t just to freshen and cool the air. It is already cold enough at night for most people. In actuality, it creates a kind of “white noise” that obliterates negative or impulsive thoughts. It helped him sleep better and surely it would work for her. You can also buy white noise machines, but the fan is also a nice décor feature and a source of illumination. You can use a dimmer and speed control to get it to operate as you like. If you want more white noise, then turn up the control to high speed and you will have it.

With the ceiling fan, I truly got my money’s worth. It does the job of lulling me to sleep and it is better than counting those boring sheep. You can buy them in various colors, finishes, and sizes to suit your room’s décor and it adds interest and appeal from a decorator’s point of view. Who knew that they create white noise. Most of us have never even heard of it. Kids like it as they often have trouble relaxing enough to pass out at the desirable bed time. If the idea of a ceiling fan is not a positive one, you can get it in white and it will fade away into the ceiling. Think of it first and foremost as a sleep aid and you will appreciate its existence each and every night. Certainly, it is healthier than sleeping pills that are addictive or even ineffective over-the-counter remedies that have suspicious ingredients. Take my word for it, a ceiling fan is the4 better choice.

Enjoying Retirement

Sooner or later, no matter your age, you start to think about retirement—those golden senior citizen years when you can enjoy travel or doing new recreational activities. Some people go boating, snorkeling, or riding in an inflatable kayak on the local river. It is interesting how much people think of the outdoors when they think of those post-work years. Enjoying retirement is easy if you plan ahead and I have always counseled clients to start young and build a nest egg when they have enough money left over for savings. Every household budget must have an allowance for the future. If there is an emergency, of course the money gets eaten up; but you must find a way to start an investment plan before too long. If you don’t have enough money in retirement, you will surely run out of money and have to live only on Social Security.

This, for most people, is not enough to afford the luxury of travel such water recreation in Tahiti. Make sure you give the subject some serious thought. I know that I have. My retirement fantasy is to go snorkeling in various hot spots around the world. I know that picturesque diving locations are ample. In fact, I am now making a list so that I can go to a different place each year. The first time I went snorkeling I felt pretty silly about it. The gear—the face mask, the tube, and the fins—are ugly and cumbersome. I soon got used to it and was thrilled that I had the time to explore the wonders of the depths. As you advance in skill and experience you can go further down to see what others often miss at the surface level of the ocean. You can buy better gear and hire a guide to take you to places that offer more of a challenge. You can get a camera and share gorgeous photos of undersea life with friends on Instagram. It’s a quick and easy way to make people jealous!

The point I am making is to try things out and find hobbies now you can pursue later in retirement. It comes before you know it. You have endless days to fill and some people elect to work part time. But most want a real retirement with all the perks and benefits. It doesn’t have to be water recreation but take my word for it that this provides more than a few hours of fun in the sun. You are outdoors in nature and will make many friends, fellow divers who appreciate what mother nature has to offer. Okay, you can learn to ski or ice skate if you like winter climates, but who doesn’t prefer warmth and comfort? I have selected my retirement activity and can attest to its many exciting adventures. There is something amazing about being under the sea and feeling that you are part of another world.

Another Session at the Library Today

People think they know about finance, but I have found their knowledge to be sparse. Thus, I enjoy educating the public with lectures at the library so the community can learn more about my specialty—home loans and related finances. These subjects touch most families, but they don’t give them much of their time. Thus, I offer regular sessions so I can reach more people in the vicinity. I have a prepared presentation with visuals in the form of PowerPoint. People relate to numbers, for example, when they can see them. Charts and graphs also make a statement and I spend time with my pointer explaining how they work. The idea is get people on the right track and to let them know that a home loan is not an impossible and overly lengthy process. It should not be as intimidating as it now is. Most bankers want to help you and are on your side.

My trusty backpack totes my laptop to and fro. It is padded so it protects my vital equipment. There is enough room for my pointer, my wallet, my car keys, and of course my mobile phone. I love all the zippered pockets that segregate things for easy retrieval. I found it after reading Backpacks Magazine. Who doesn’t like to be a font of information so I am upgrading and updating my lecture all the time as new data appears in the media. Banking is a popular topic and finance is universal. I am at the heart of the world’s economic universe. Finance as a subject is all-encompassing and can include the vast realm of investments of which there are seven: bank accounts, stocks or equities, bonds, real estate, currencies, commodities, and insurance. I know you are thinking that I forgot mutual funds. They are actually the same investments in a new wrapper, which is a pool of money managed by an advisor. So, I keep it simple and sane. You can get into hedge funds and the like, but they are just equities in new guide.

Finance can be sophisticated such as when I explain how interest rates work. It can also be mundane when I discuss the importance of a budget and overhead. Everyone must deal with finance if they have a job, are saving for their kids’ college education, or are getting ready for eventual retirement. If you ignore these important things and start too late, you will be caught up in “the run for the roses,” which means you are desperate to sock away enough for retirement and could run out of money in a short period of time.

When I put away my laptop and close the backpack, I know I am done for the day. I have played my part in finance education and I always hope it reaches the audience. Many people look mystified and others entranced. In any case, I think I have succeeded in my goal.

An Even Trade

One innovative way to save money for the family budget is to exchange services, yours for theirs. Whatever job is in question will then be free and no costs incurred. This presupposes you have some skill or talent to work with, but most of us do, or at least someone in the family will do. The kids can even get into the picture. They can clean a neighbor’s pool, wash cars, rake leaves, sweep sidewalks and organize garages all in exchange for some particular service. Maybe your neighbor is a plumber or an electrician and you need repair. An adult can drive their kids to school or baseball practice, or even mow the lawn. There are myriad ways to barter for something. I know a family that has a vast vegetable garden and they trade their produce for all kinds of household help. People get creative when the budget is tight. They started the program when the father was out of work and it soon became a full-time enterprise.

Now what can I trade? I can help people with bank loans and counsel them how to speed up and facilitate the process. I did this for a handyman and got two hours of service in return. It was a fair exchange and I was thrilled. I wanted to help him and was glad I needed some household attention. I could easily have paid someone else, but why not do a favor for someone in need. I was greatly surprised that he brought an electric pressure washer and volunteered to hose off the dirty front of my house.

This is not something I would have thought of or ever have attempted myself. Not everyone has a pressure washer, but I soon learned that it is useful for many things. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to procure one for regular sidewalk and garage maintenance. There is always caked on dirt somewhere, including the car that had just gone for a country drive on muddy roads. I would recommend finding a place for a pressure washer in your family budget. It is going to be on my own. Most people think they are hard to operate for are too strong. They don’t know that you can adjust them the way you like from a light spray to heavy intensity. It depends on the project.

They also think they are expensive since they are more than just a hose. Not so. You can get them in hardware and building supply stores and online often at a fair, discounted price. Don’t let lack of knowledge deter you. This is an item most families will want if they own a home. It takes no time at all for a property to become dilapidated and dog-eared. Keep your home fresh and clean with a pressure washer that any family member can use. You don’t need a professional or a handyman by any means. Read the simple instructions, turn it on, and you are all set.